It is clear that the impact of Coronavirus is going to hurt the Tees Valley in ways, that up until a month ago were thought unimaginable. The jobs losses and business closures will be unprecedented and the human cost and loss of life will be devastating.
Local, regional and national government must pull together, alongside our communities and civic society to ensure the survival of our local businesses and the protection of those most vulnerable. Last week I wrote to Rushi Sunack on behalf of business and workers asking for updates to the budget which many suggestions were implemented.
I have since been working tirelessly with business leaders and communities over the last week to pull together ideas that could be implemented locally, which I have set out in a letter to the Mayor Ben Houchen – COVID-19 Response and his cabinet at the Combined authority. Ultimately we need government action but that mustn’t stop us being responsive on the ground to need.
My team and I have now set up Teesside Community Action a civic society response to the coronavirus, offering advice, support and guidance around a rage of issues. We have begun a crisis fund for those most vulnerable. I have also been in conversation with businesses and charities to develop efficient and safe ways that the public can support each other during this time such as the idea of a crisis helpline for the elderly who are not online.
The coronavirus is already having catastrophic impacts on the retail, leisure and service industry with jobs and businesses being lost by the hour. Whilst we can only call on national government to address this urgently with financial measures and addressing flaws in the current welfare system, there are some measures we could take to support this industry locally during this period such as
- Setting up an emergency Task Force and business support team for service industry
- Investing in localised not-for-profit online platforms to facilitate trade, along the lines of the Just Eat model which could create trade for cafes and restaurants and help to secure the supply of food during the outbreak.
- Easy access investment and support to local businesses for digital technologies that
enable the provision of services at a distance.
A general business strategy, could include redirecting where possible, business support schemes into business continuity support – which could include the setting up an emergency business helpline and offering dedicated support and advice around
- Creating business continuity and survival plans
- crisis loans, grants and tax payments
- Looking after the workforce and advising on best practice
- Managing a business during periods of disruption
- Policies and business processes that can be adopted to enable teams to work remotely from home during periods of isolation
A Civic society strategy should be based on coordinating and redeploying as many resources and services as possible to deal with the crisis and providing a link between business, institutions and communities. There are many people wanting to look after people and play their role in protecting those most vulnerable, we must do this in a coordinated way and provide leadership and support to those people, organisations and groups.
We are no longer in a business as usual phase, this is unprecedented times needing unprecedented action